Saturday, June 23, 2001

The Music Mom

Next year, by virtue of being a fourth-grader, my daughter is eligible to take instrumental music. She can choose any instrument she wants, and learn to play it at school.

Her choice was the violin.

I had a few problems with that.

First, I've read enough stories about pint-sized violin virtuosos starting on the strings at age three or four to know that if you start playing at age 11, you are at a significant disadvantage. It's like starting ballet or gymnastics in your teens. Your time has passed.

Second, my secret aim with this instrumental music is to position her to be in the band in middle school and high school. Since we live next door to the high school, we see (and hear! Boy, do we hear!) the marching band practice virtually in our backyard, and she thinks it would be fun to be part of that. As one who was involved in choir throughout high school (and yes, my daughter is starting chorus next year, too), I remember how life-consuming music is at the high school level, and how it eliminates the need for other pesky forms of social planning. This seems to me to be a good thing for a girl who will be two years older and taller than everybody else and perhaps a little bit less mature. A built-in social life is good. A built-in social life that plays out outside my window is better. Unless our high school suddenly develops a Strolling Strings Corps, it seems unlikely that the violin is going to get us there.

And third, the sound of beginning violin. 'Nuff said?

My choice for her would have been the flute, because I play one and I own one and she could have a little head start. But I also know that in any given elementary school, a majority of the little girls will want to play the flute. That's a lot of competition when you have fourteen or fifteen elementary schools converging on one H.S. Since my daughter is hard-working and good-hearted but probably not virtuoso material, competition is something we'd like to avoid.

So I asked the instrumental music teacher to recommend something not a lot of kids were taking. He showed me the applications, and sure enough the first 25 of them were girls wanting to play the flute. The next 25 were boys wanting to play the saxophone. There were a smattering of other instruments, then one particular brass number that had only two aspirants.

And now, three. She's going to play the trombone.

A decent choice for a tall, strong girl, I think. More likely to be played by boys, which she will one day appreciate. Necessary for a marching band. And a gateway into other brass instruments that are even less popular. French horn! Flugelhorn! Tuba! A mother can dream.

And yes, I know that beginning trombone is probably every bit as unpleasant as beginning violin. But we can open the windows, and maybe she'll blend in with the marching band blasting away outside.

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